image description: an uncredited and undated black and white photograph of frida kahlo, the mexican painter and activist, in bed. the covers are pulled down to her waist, and she is wearing a self-decorated/painted cast around her torso. she is holding a hand mirror so she can paint it. the hand that is holding the mirror has beautiful large stone rings on it.
i have never seen this photograph of frida. one thing i have loved about tumblr is i have seen so many photographs of her i didn’t even know existed… but on the other hand they are consistently uncredited and shown without context.
lately i’ve been thinking about how angry i feel when i see images of frida kahlo being sold on bags, t-shirts, random objects, even in graffiti… often they remove her facial hair and don’t point out that these are self-portraits. i suppose i’m just protective/worried she will one day reach the same kind of iconography status as che guevera, where people will know her image, her face, but will have erased so much of her (hi)story and context… especially for someone who politicized her body, her art, her very existence and survival was political.
In regard to your comments and reblogging my post:
I did not add those things because I did not have that information. If I had it I would have. This picture was emailed to me and I have never seen it anywhere else. I hope that you are not implying that I was trying to exploit Frida by posting this picture without the additional information that you felt was needed? I personally peeped some low-grade shade from you so I feel I have to clarify some things. I posted the picture because I felt the image of Frida painting her cast was reflective of the pain she endured most of her life. That she was able to take a very painful reality and use that reality to make her art and truth as she saw it. To me this image was so powerful it spoke for itself so I didn’t feel right trying to contextualize it for someone else. I felt those who love Frida’s art would be able to identify with how much physical pain impacted her life and shaped her work. I am not one of these people on Tumblr who just post pictures of things to get reblogs. I posted this for people who appreciate Frida and her contribution to the art world.
this is definitely a moment where i wish tumblr had comments and didn’t necessitate reblogs for clarification: this was not a critique of this specific photo, nor of you specifically. to be completely honest i didn’t even know who posted this image originally, i just knew i had tried and failed via many online searches to find its original source (i.e. photographer, date, etc.). what i had to say was more about:
- frida’s image vs. frida’s story/life, and how i feel like her art, her face, her body, is so intrisically connected to her life so it upsets me to see her image presented without some sort of context and
- the actions you took (receiving an uncredited image via email, posting it and sharing it via tumblr, having no way of finding out what year the photograph was taken, where it was taken, who took it, where you can see it today, etc.) are completely normalized and encouraged for a forum like tumblr and my least favourite of all weheartit.
as someone who studied art and debated going into museum and/or curation, as well as a feminist and fan of frida kahlo, to me it is slightly tragic when an image like this one is completely stripped of its context… but does that mean it should not be shared at all? i’m not sure. if i felt that way, i wouldn’t share half of the images i do on my own tumblr. i wasn’t calling “you” out, i was more calling attention to that practice.
and on the worst end of showing/selling images of frida kahlo without context, there is the capitalist industry that will make a profit off of frida’s paintings and images. i suppose i was speaking more directly in regards to the Frida Industry in general; as far as i know, you have not profited at all from this image and i don’t feel like i insinuated you did?
i suppose we fundamentally disagree, because i don’t think that simply showing an image of frida kahlo in bed in a body cast can possibly reflect “the pain she endured most of her life,” as you put it. an image can mean so many different things to all kinds of people who might come across it… and for me, even as someone who has read much about frida and who would almost call herself a frida expert, i did not notice at first glance that she was even painting her cast. for someone who doesn’t know much about frida, they might have no idea why she would be wearing a cast. it might incite someone to look into it, go check a book out of a library or watch a film about her, but i’m not sure sharing one image with no text or information of frida kahlo could possibly address her complicated relationship to her body.
i’ll just let frida speak for herself:
i am not sick. i am not broken. but i am happy as long as i can paint.
(also i have no idea what this means: “peeped some low-grade shade from you.”)
if anyone wants to read my opinions about crediting on tumblr you can check out my posts tagged “credit.”